Raising the speed limit to 85 mph on some Nevada highways would improve travel times for commercial vehicles and help drivers avoid travel fatigue, according to proponents of a bill moving through the Legislature.
Republican bill sponsor Sen. Don Gustavson testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Transportation on SB2, which would allow the state transportation department to increase the maximum speed limit on certain highways, mainly in rural areas.
“Passage of this law does not mean NDOT will be posting 85-mile-per-hour speed limits in the Spaghetti Bowl in Reno or Las Vegas,” he said during the hearing.
Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon testified against the bill, saying the department’s board of directors believed it would work against the state’s Zero Fatalities campaign aimed at eliminating fatal crashes.
Higher speed limits decrease safe stopping times and crashes at higher speeds are more likely to be fatal, according to Nevada Highway Patrol Chief Dennis Osborn.
“Any time you have an increase in speed, you have an increase in energy and you’ll see a decrease in survivability,” Osborn said during the hearing.
The current maximum speed limit in Nevada tops out at 75 mph, primarily on a number of rural interstates.
Only Utah and Texas have speed limits exceeding 75 mph. Gustavson said those states haven’t seen an increase in substantive crashes since raising their speed limits.
Gustavson proposed similar legislation in 2013 that passed through the Senate with bipartisan support but never received a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. The former professional truck driver said political conflicts killed the bill last session.